This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
When it comes to cardiovascular disease (CVD) we know that imbalanced cholesterol levels are only one small part of the problem. Nonetheless, there are roughly 32 million Americans taking a statin drug, with 13 million more “eligible” under statin guidelines.
Most take statin drugs in the name of “prevention,” however, not only have statins proved to be rather ineffective, there are a plethora of possible side effects associated with these drugs, including severe muscle pain and nerve damage, and an increased risk of diabetes, among many others. Additionally, statins deplete your body’s stores of CoQ10 and hinder its ability to generate more, lending to body aches and feelings of fatigue.
To avoid statins and limit your risk, consider trying these alternative, natural treatment options prior to beginning medicinal treatment.
#1: Ditch Processed Fats and Eat to Reduce Inflammation
For years we’ve been told that saturated fat causes heart disease. But research is revealing that nothing could be further from the truth. While processed trans-fats and the overuse of processed oils certainly play a role, experts are now admitting that eggs and butter are not the offenders we once thought. In fact, many experts now admit that inflammation may be a much more likely contributor to heart disease.
One study published in the journal Circulation declared that overall inflammation — often caused by excess sugar consumption, processed fats, and fried foods — “plays a critical role in CVD, and the inflammatory cascade is particularly important in the atherosclerotic process,” citing that “inflammation is the underlying cause of approximately 80% of all sudden cardiac deaths.”
A healthy, balanced, anti-inflammatory diet is considered the best path to heart health and avoiding the complications associated with statins. And there are a number of foods that are known to help in this regard. Avoid foods that are high in processed fats and sugars, choosing leaner meats such as chicken and fish over red meats. Other foods, such as nuts, fish oils, oats and green teas have all been shown to be beneficial too. Finally, consuming more fiber, especially when it comes from fruits, vegetables and beans, is another effective way to boost heart health.
Ground breaking, right? It should go without saying that regular exercise boosts heart health. According to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as many as 250,000 deaths in the U.S. each year can be attributed to lack of exercise. The heart is a muscle, and as such, should be worked and conditioned to ensure longevity.
Studies indicate that exercise has been shown to boost levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, while simultaneously lowering levels of unwanted cholesterol. While any type of exercise is beneficial, and even doing a little bit is better than nothing at all, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week. Even if you need to break this exercise into shorter 10 or 15 minute segments, research indicates you can still see great benefits. Help yourself to achieve your goals by choosing a type of exercise that you enjoy and incorporate it into your regular routine.
#3: Lose Weight
Losing weight is a powerful way to improve your cholesterol levels. In fact, if you are already overweight, lowering your weight by as little as ten pounds has been shown to improve your cholesterol by up to eight percent. Combining this goal, with the aforementioned methods of eating better and exercising, can produce a potent threefold set of devices to promote better cholesterol levels and avoid using statins.
#4: Monitor (Just Monitor) Your Alcohol Intake
Moderate consumption of alcohol may actually help to promote improved measures of “good” HDL cholesterol. Generally speaking, it may be beneficial for women to have up to one drink per day and up to two drinks per day for men. However, if you do not currently drink or drink very little, exercise extreme caution and talk to your physician before doing so. Alternatively, if you currently consume more than this amount of alcohol, cutting back may help your cholesterol levels, in addition to providing many other health benefits.
#5: Quit Smoking
Smoking represents a major risk factor for heart disease and decreases levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Quitting smoking is not only a wonderful way to improve your cholesterol levels, but typically opens the door to improved health in a number of other ways . If you are seeking to lower your risk of CVD and avoid statins, consider it a great opportunity to quit smoking.
Discuss Your Options with Your Healthcare Professional
If it’s been suggested that you have unhealthy cholesterol levels, your physician may be prone to recommend a statin. However, if you are willing to attempt the measures described here, discuss the possibilities with your healthcare professional. You may be able to naturally balance your cholesterol levels without resorting to medication.
Finally, if you are already on a statin regimen, you should still consider addressing alternative treatment options with your physician, especially if you are experiencing unwanted side effects. There may be an opportunity to reduce your cholesterol levels through natural means, and eventually end your dependence on medication. Remember that you have the ability to help direct your health care treatment, and while your physician may ultimately believe the use of such medication is indispensable in your case, there is no harm in starting the discussion.